theater (reviews)

review: him

Him

Written and directed by Clifford Streit
Featuring Jon Fleming, Todd Alan Crain
Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street
March 14, 2012 — open run [opening March 21, 2012]
production web site

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
March 19, 2012

(L-R) Jon Fleming and Todd Alan Crain. Image by Michael Mallard.

There is a mishmash of styles to be experienced in Him now playing at the Soho Playhouse. Quips, situations, a few charming characters, a few masochistic characters, a plot line that plays as almost-farce, designed as almost-cartoon, all directed and paced as a contemplative tragedy. Pauses a-plenty. Even without the real-life detail that the author-director of this stilted drama-comedy-farce is the man who brought Candace Bushnell and HBO together for The Sex and the City series, several dimensions of that series might occur to you as you watch. Manager/agent as Samantha without heart or humor; movie star on the rise as Samantha’s boy toy star on the rise (in this case with a slightly flexible sexual past but who is, we are to believe, basically gay). Earnest writer (our Carrie) who observes it all, trusts, feels, reports, emotes. In the end, shards of dialogue and sense memories provide the outline of a play with some effective theatre images (red carpet paparazzi effects are stellar). But believable core connective tissue (and certainly any claim to believable female characters) is lacking here.

Action takes place between New York City where writer Matthew (Todd Alan Crain) and actor-on-the-rise Nick (John Fleming) live and love together, and Los Angeles.  Along the way Nick’s publicity story is being crafted by manager Margot (Lindsay Goranson), who is enthralled by Nick’s success. Along with assistant James (Julian Mercer) she pushes the fiction that Nick is heterosexual through crimes of omission — such as not mentioning his relationship in press or having Nick appear solo on the Red Carpet — or commission —  such as having Nick attend events with Margot’s telenovela graduate-as-beard Rana (Georgia X Lifsher) who has a secret of her own. The cast is rounded out by an extraneous underwritten heterosexual male Margot client Troy (James Sautter), who serves as a sexual partner for Margot while she pines strategically for Nick. Emotional stakes are never high, some images work well, laugh lines are sprinkled through the experience, and the women are harridans. Margot is never more complicated than a shrill harpy (could there be humor here perhaps?) and Matthew is never more complicated than earnest trusting loving partner, who seems at times to be in another more serious play transpiring at an entirely different pace. An offstage Felix-the-doorman during the New York scenes could be an homage to Valerie Harper‘s Rhoda and Carlton her doorman, but the repeated schtick is underutilized.

Set and lighting design by Josh Iacovelli makes much of a small space, and sound design by Juni Li soothes with interscenic aural entertainment by k.d. lang and (points for this) the Dorothy Collins Follies original Broadway cast version of “Losing My Mind.”  Small moments entrance in a piece somewhere in the netherland among the nodes of farce, comedy, tragedy, and drama. And along the way women are beasts.

© Martha Wade Steketee (March 23, 2012)

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